I started to title this blog segment “The Devil is in the Details.” The phrase is familiar to us isn’t it? But a little research showed me I was wrong to use the phrase. While the idiom usually serves as a caution to pay attention to small details to avoid failure—the truth is “God is in the details” for Central and for our Master Plan. Even the grandest of projects depends on the success of the smallest components—thus “God is in the details” is our most positive and right spiritual guide. The Building Committee must pay great attention to the details – praying that God’s angels sit on our shoulders as we work and as we help you understand some of the Building Committee’s many considerations in developing the campus Master Plan.
In Part 1 – Sprouting, ( published on July 10, 2015) I talked with you about how Central’s new Building Committee, born of our 2014 Strategic Plan, has been working on what promises to be a long-term Master Plan for our church campus. There have been discussions aplenty. As a member of the Building Committee as well as Lay Leader I can share that we have assessed needs, we have looked at some limited schematic drawings, potential layouts, explored and debated ideas, and talked through numerous possibilities. We have talked about money and debt. Being good stewards of our money and assets is always uppermost in the Committee members’ minds. We have argued and debated and agreed and disagreed over various issues. We have not yet reached a conclusive recommendation to make to the congregation. There are yet just too many details to consider, including, and most importantly, the needs and hopes of you the congregation. Nothing can or will be done without open conversations available to all. Informational sessions with the church are planned for later this year and early next year. The Building Committee has no power to approve demolition or construction of anything. Their role is simply to study options and develop recommendations to take to the Church Council and ultimately to the entire congregation. Over time all members will have the opportunity to look at suggested schematic drawings, floor plans, renderings and models of potential development—any and every detail we can assemble that will help you in your decision-making. This process and the completion of the Master Plan will take years and will likely extend over multiple decades. We (all of us together) will be cutting out the “sprouting” and the “pulls” and “nubby threads” of the master planning process and replacing them as best we can with a masterfully hand woven and detailed plan glorifying God and our purpose to make disciples for Jesus Christ at home and throughout the world.
There are so many dreams born of the Strategic Plan . We will seek to unify all of our children into one building (birth – sixth grade); We have hopes for connecting buildings to create a magnificent Gathering Space; we need to re-join our staff into one or two buildings versus the six they are in now; there are anticipations for a new music suite for our choirs. We are considering options for carefully and beautifully re-configuring the Sanctuary chancel and altar area to improve sight lines, accessibility, and utilization of the space without compromising the integrity of this iconic building. Along the way will come parking improvements, and perhaps a large and dedicated contemporary worship space.
Last year, Central entered into a contract with a highly regarded, nationally recognized firm based out of Dallas, TX that specializes in planning, design, renovation, and development of churches from coast to coast. HH Architects was selected by our Board of Trustees based on the recommendation of our Administrator Brian Swain. HH has been a wonderful partner so far and is well experienced in all the areas of Central’s architectural concerns, whether it be preservation or building some areas anew.
Parts of Central’ Strategic Plan relate directly to these issues above. Now, personally I dislike bullet points when I am just trying to have a conversation with someone, as I am now with you. But sometimes bullet points provide significant clarity. So here are some action steps from the Strategic Plan ( in the form of bullet points) the Building Committee is working with while developing Central’s Master plan. We are charged to:
- Conduct a study to determine the most effective use of each facility and whether to remodel, tear down, or re-build each;
- Develop a means of connecting as many buildings as possible with the connection point serving as a major gathering area before and after worship to serve as a focal entry point for members and guests and contain a coffee area, an information area, and possibly more storage. The committee must also insure the space includes a bank of adequate restrooms. This Gathering Space design drives much of the Master Plan development and the potential phases of implementing the plan. It provides: safety for the children going from one building to the next; weatherproof connections as members and guests move to various locations; and offers a beautiful indoor area to mingle, converse, and get to know each other better.
- Develop one building space that can accommodate all children from birth through 6th grade with nursery space in closer proximity to worship spaces. For now I will refer to this as the Children’s Ministry Building – potentially taking the place of the Education Building;
- Improve handicap accessibility in all facilities.
I have said we have debated and studied. To illustrate, we have discussed and explored the Education Building. It is a fifty-five year old building, which, though in solid structural condition, is insufficient in size to handle all our children’s ministries. A few years ago the architectural firm of Miller Boskus Lack studied the Education building and determined that a 3rd floor could be added but they also have stated that it would likely take adding additional piers to the building in order to shore up the foundation. HH also has identified several other serious concerns about the current building. By only remodeling the Education Building Central would be:
- Ending up with a building composed of brand new components combined with components that are 55 years old. What will that mean for the function and beauty of the building in 20-30 years, and is that the best long-term decision from a use and cost standpoint?
- Attempting to integrate heating, air conditioning, and plumbing systems between the existing building and the new building.
- Dealing with costly improvements to the building in order to bring it up to code, which would include a sprinkler system.
- Struggling with the size of existing classrooms and whether they could meet our needs.
- Required to install an elevator and an additional stairwell for evacuation purposes because all of the large assembly space would likely be on the 3rd
- All of these issues are in addition to an overall lack of flexibility in using an existing structure versus building from scratch what is truly needed to best serve the members of Central. The committee is wrestling through desires for historic preservation against challenges of making the space work for our future ministry needs. Could it be in the church’s best interest to replace the existing structure with one of the size and functionality that is needed? Could the cost of renovating the old be greater than building a new building with the same beautiful style of the current building, bringing it all together like a masterfully woven rug made by today’s hands and in the same classic fashion and beauty so representative of Central United Methodist Church?
Finally, there is more work under consideration than can possibly all be done at one time. So, the committee is working through how to schedule phasing for the projects on the drawing board. We find ourselves asking, “Should a Phase I implementation of the Master Plan include not only a Children’s Ministry Building but also a dearly needed music suite and at least part of the Gathering Space?”
The committee is keenly aware the look of the church (particularly the sight lines from Dickson) is important and that the ultimate functionality and long-term costs of the buildings must also be part of the decision in order for the committee to adequately do its job. It has been said and the committee agrees “whatever we do should look like it has always been there” and “it should be better than what we have now.” Let us pray God indeed is in the details.
There is so much more to talk about including ongoing discussion about potential renovations to the Sanctuary chancel and altar area, which I hope to share more about in my next post. Thanks so much to Church Administrator Brian Swain and Building Committee Chair Jason Wilson for their assistance in providing and helping me remember details about committee work thus far. Be looking for more soon!
Building Committee Member